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Somerville Murder Trial Begins


During the first day of jury selection for the trial of accused 17-year-old killer Edward S. O'Brien Jr., attorneys impaneled four jurors and estimated it will take two more days to seat a complete jury.

Once the 12 regular and four alternate members of the jury are chosen, prosecutors estimate the murder trial will last about three weeks.

O'Brien is charged in the July 1995 stabbing death of 42-year-old Janet Downing. Downing, who was stabbed 97 times in her living room, was O'Brien's Somerville neighbor and best friend's mother.

O'Brien was 15 when Downing was killed, but a judge decided he would be tried as an adult. Just before jury selection began yesterday, Middlesex Superior Court Judge James McDaniel agreed to let prosecutors present several contentious pieces of evidence. The judge said he'll allow testimony regarding O'Brien's feelings toward the victim as well as testimony about an alleged conversation O'Brien had with Downing's son in which he said he wanted to hurt someone. The judge also ruled prosecutors could present evidence they say shows O'Brien tried to sell a knife similar to the suspected murder weapon.

Jury selection will continue today.

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